India

Mula-Mutha River Vanishing…

Talwar Singh Sirohi for BeyondHeadlines                                

Clean river is a myth today. And so it fits to Mula-Mutha river. If you Google as ‘the most polluted river in India’, Mula-Mutha might acquire the first position. Contrary to this, Mula-Mutha basin is one of the rapidly urbanizing watersheds, wherein two major urban centres – Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad have developed at an alarming rate in the last two decades or so. Water of this river is used to satisfy the need of water for a fast growing population in this basin. From last many decades Mula-Mutha river acts as an artery to the Pune city and provide water for basic needs of drinking to sophisticated industrial uses. But it seems as if we forgot the importance of this river in development of Pune city and ourselves. Instead of treating it as a Goddess- a source of life and health we treat it as a public dumpster. The continuous dumping of sewage and industrial waste in river water has become a hazard to the community and even challenges the survival of marine species. There was a time when in late 1970, Kavadi- a village of the Pune-Solapur highway, 3 km off Loni with its pollution-free river, was ideal for migratory birds. Ornithologists said it had makings of a bird sanctuary. But rising pollution in the river that flows through the village led to the fall in number of migratory birds. Once visited by painted storks, black headed ibis, ruby shell-duck which migrates from Laddakh, garganey teal, Indian river tern and other countless birds now only houses dump brought to the village by river flow. This really breaks ones heart. What is the reason? How this happened? What caused such a decline of this beautiful river which was once necklace of Pune city?  Here are some brief details.

Why Mula-Mutha got polluted?

Failure of government policies and incapable infrastructure for pollution control is one of the top most reasons followed by failure of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in treatment of waste water, daily sewage and many other types of solid waste. Inappropriate existing standards of Pune Municipal Corporation and its under-working sewage treatment plants let almost half of untreated  sewage to flow in the river. Unawareness among people of Pune also adds up to bad luck of Mula-Mutha.

How it happened?

There are 12 industrial estates and IT parks developed by Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC). Small scale industries are also located at various places such as Hadapsar, Lonavala etc. Compared to total number of registered industries in the state, 10.09% of industries are located in Pune district alone. Their waste has to be discharged. Although, not all the industries violate the limits of discharging waste in the river, only a small percentage of industries create a problem and add to pollution in Mula-Mutha. Apart from this, human waste, daily sewage, plastics and other toxic substances worsen the situation more. Let’s take a look on the waste that goes in Mula-Mutha.

Municipal solid waste- The change of lifestyle and growing requirement of people is therefore leading to more generation of waste. Quantity of municipal waste thus depends on many factors such as population, food habits, standard of living and industrial activities. Presently Pune generates around 1000 MT/D of municipal solid waste. PMC’s major disposal site is at Hadapsar and six small sited located around the city where waste is converted into compost by EM spraying method. This method is insufficient, inefficient and unscientific. Thus extra waste is again turned to Mula-Mutha.

Hazardous waste- There are around 516 hazardous waste generating units in Pune district, which produce around 5,205 MT/M of waste. Toxic elements like zinc, copper, barium, cadmium, mercury etc are extremely harmful even in very small amount. Most of these elements are found in Mula-Mutha, which endanger the marine life. It also decreases oxygen level in the river. For a healthy river oxygen level is 2 mg/litre but sadly it is .75mg/litre for Mula and almost zero in Mutha river near sangam bridge. Hadapsar belt has recorded highest particulate matter in Mula-Mutha. This is resulting in loss of many types of fishes which cannot tolerate such high levels of toxins and such low levels of oxygen.

Biomedical waste- It means any waste generated during diagnosis, treatment of human beings or animals. Generation of biomedical waste differs from place to place and normally is 125 to 250 gram/bed/day. Pune city generates about 2,782 kg/day of BM waste.

Can Mula-Mutha be cleaned?

Can one of the most polluted rivers of India be cleaned? YES!! Why not? There are many examples where river which once became gutters were turned back to beautiful rivers.

USA converted almost all its major polluted rivers into beautiful clean rivers in last 50 years. Ohio and Mississippi rivers create very good examples. Pune Municipal Corporation should analyze their ways and methods and implement them on Mula-Mutha. Cleaning of Mula-Mutha will require massive involvement of state government and city municipal in developing new scientific and more efficient ways to treat waste. Ecological engineering can help to treat the waste at the source only. People participation should be there to monitor the treatment systems. These are the few ways which can make Mula-Mutha Ohio or Mississippi of India.

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